Inconsistencies in corona numbers and slow diagnostics: A CNN report criticizes early corona management in the Chinese region of Hubei and cites from leaked documents.
At the beginning of the year, the world looked to the Chinese region of Hubei, more precisely to the 11 million metropolis of Wuhan. There, the cases of an initially puzzling disease that would later be called Covid-19 increased. It was triggered by a previously unknown coronavirus, which was to spread across the globe in the weeks and months that followed. At least 64 million people worldwide have since become infected with the virus. Around 1.5 million people died.
A CNN report now throws light on these early days of the pandemic and casts doubt on the portrayal of the transparent and efficient crisis management that China has recently boasted of. Among other things, CNN reports on discrepancies in the number of confirmed corona cases. The news channel cites 117 pages of leaked documents that CNN claims to have received from a whistleblower. According to the broadcaster, the internal documents were checked for authenticity by experts and found to be authentic. The documents contain information from the period between October 2019 and April 2020 and are said to come from the health authority of the Hubei region.
Differences in the number of cases
The report shows: Corona figures communicated internally did not always match the data that were also made public. CNN cites February 10, 2020 as an example. On this day, the authorities in the Hubei region reported 3,911 new corona cases – including 2,097 confirmed cases and 1,814 suspected cases. Internally, however, a significantly higher number of 5918 cases circulated on this day, which was broken down into further categories. 2345 were rated as “confirmed”, 1796 as suspected cases. In addition there are “clinically diagnosed” cases with around 1772 patients and five patients who are listed as “tested positive”.
It is unclear why these figures were not included in the published statistics. Yanzhong Huang of the Council of Foreign Relations described the published figures to CNN as conservative. “This reflects how confusing, complex and chaotic the situation was.”
In fact, China had been criticized for its case definition early on in the pandemic. Presumably because there was a lack of test capacities, the authorities went over to diagnosing corona cases using CT scans of the lungs, among other things. As a result, the number of cases skyrocketed in mid-February. However, the gold standard in diagnostics is the detection of the pathogen via a PCR test. The test results also provide the basis for the figures from the health authorities in Germany.
Already 200 cases in 2019?
Another number also makes you sit up and take notice: As CNN reports, there were probably more suspected corona cases in 2019 than previously known. There are around 200 cases. In early January, Chinese authorities officially reported 44 suspected cases to the World Health Organization (WHO) for 2019.
The delay in diagnosing cases is also striking. According to a March report referenced by CNN, it took an average of 23.3 days to diagnose from the onset of symptoms. A certain delay in diagnosis cannot be avoided and occurs in Western countries too. However, experts described the time lag to CNN as unusually long, noting that the time lag may have hampered steps taken to monitor and control the disease.
The report also uses other examples to show inconsistencies between internal documents and the official presentation – a complete failure or even an attempt to disguise the figures cannot, however, be attributed to the authorities. “The reports show that in the early stages of the pandemic, China faced the same accounting, testing and diagnostics problems that still plague many Western democracies today,” the CNN report said. These problems were also exacerbated by the fact that it was a “completely new virus”.
At the end of December 2019, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission reported the first cases of an initially unknown lung disease. The incidents were initially linked to an animal market. However, the exact origin of the pathogen is still unknown today. It is considered likely that the virus originally came from bats. The World Health Organization announced at the end of November that it would launch a further investigation with an international team of experts in order to find out the origin of the pathogen.
Those:CNN – “The Wuhan Files” / Johns Hopkins University
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